NYC debates crackdown on counterfeit luxury goods

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm •  Published: June 13, 2013
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Council member Peter Vallone Jr. says he would not support the bill in its current form. Vallone says "a year in jail seems a little tough" for buying fake goods.

Ashley Hunter, 30, of Kewshaw, S.C., shopping in the area, asks, "How would I know I'm not supposed to buy something, that there's a fine?"

Melissa Kirkpatrick, of Salt Lake City, Utah, wasn't too concerned about the legality of the items selling on Canal Street, where she was with her family. She was looking for a Rolex for a friend at home. "If I can buy it for $50, I will, real or fake," she says.

Chin says city officials would launch a visible campaign informing the public and tourism companies, distributing flyers and posting signs.

In France, everyone seems to know that buying or carrying fakes is a crime, says Valerie Salembier, a former publisher of Harper's Bazaar magazine who also testified at Thursday's hearing. She now runs the nonprofit Authentics Foundation dedicated to consumer education about the counterfeit industry.

Air France warns tourists to stay away from fake goods, because anyone in the country "risks fines of up to 300,000 euros" — that's more than 478,000 U.S. dollars — "and up to three years in prison for the mere possession of a counterfeit item."

"It's why they don't have a big problem with counterfeits in France, Salembier says.

The next hearing on the New York City proposal has not been scheduled yet and is at least a few months away, says Amy Varghese, a spokeswoman for Chin.

For years in Chinatown, logo-bearing items were openly displayed, spread across sidewalks in burlap scooped up by vendors who'd run if police appeared.

Only the most daring do that now, since city raids resulted in the elimination of whole blocks of shops and the demolition of a building used as a warehouse.

Some shops now use stealth tactics to keep sales rolling.

Asked if he carries "designer bags," one merchant points to a knockoff on a shelf, explaining that he "can make it into a designer bag if you wish."

He steps behind a curtain, emerging with a metal plate bearing the name "Prada." He says he'll put the label on whichever bag a customer picks.